Mbalula denies lying about using taxpayer money to fund Mayweather visit

SPORTS and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula has denied lying to Parliament about using taxpayer money to fund a visit by boxing giant Floyd Mayweather to SA in 2014.

“At no point did Minister Fikile Mbalula mislead Parliament. All Parliamentary questions by the DA (Democratic Alliance) and other parties have been answered truthfully and to the best of our knowledge and abilities, based on records at our disposal within the department,” Mr Mbalula’s office said in a statement on Friday.

The Department of Sport and Recreation has accused the DA and Netwerk24’s editor-in-chief, Adriaan Basson, of being on a “political witch-hunt” and colluding about the downfall of the government.

When initially asked about the costs incurred for Mayweather’s visit, Mr Mbalula had told Parliament that only R1,640 had been spent on petrol costs to the Dube Soweto Gym and the Emperor’s Palace venue, where a gala had been held.

But Netwerk24 this week reported that documents from Mr Mbalula’s office showed that almost R500,000 had been spent on Mayweather’s visit.

In the documents the department says: “The department’s involvement (with Mayweather’s visit) was not through financial contribution to the tour itself but through collaboration and synchronised programmes.”

The department, in the documents quoted by Netwerk24, then breaks down the costs incurred.

About R171,000 was spent on purchasing tables at the gala dinner. Another R155,000 was spent on marketing and advertising, a further R90,000 was spent on branding and R22,000 on auction framing.

Following the article, the DA demanded answers from Mr Mbalula and said it intended to approach the chairperson of the portfolio committee on sport and recreation to summon him to Parliament, where he had to account for the expenditure.

Mr Mbalula said he had accounted for all the funds used. “We wish to state it on record that the purported amounts (R475,950.00) we have allegedly failed to disclose to Parliament have actually been disclosed in full.”

His office said it stood by what it had said about no taxpayers funds being used for the visit, and welcomed the DA’s action against them.

“In fact we will give our due support to the chairperson of the portfolio committee to prioritise this matter and give it preference on the first sitting of the committee in the new session of Parliament when it resumes.”

Mr Mbalula accused Netwerk24’s editor of colluding with the DA. But Mr Basson rejected this as a diversion tactic.

“The minister is clearly trying to divert attention away from the untruths he told Parliament and the media about Mayweather’s January 2014 visit to SA. He categorically stated that the government did not pay one cent towards the visit. Documentation from his own department contradicts him. If he didn’t know, he should say so instead of launching ad hominem attacks against journalists doing their jobs,” Mr Basson said.

• Netwerk24 is part of the Media24 group that also owns News24

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